This article is courtesy of Constant Contact:

As a small business, you know how important a first impression can be.

Whether it’s the first time someone walks into your store, the first time someone calls your office, or the first time someone looks up your business online—you work hard to make sure customers walk away thinking positively about your brand.

But how about the first impression a customer has with your brand’s email marketing?

Have you put any thought into the type of experience you’re giving your customers when they receive an email from your business for the first time?

The value of welcome emails

It’s easy to forget that each time a customer opens an email from your organization, they are actually having an experience that can impact the way they think of your business.

Like when someone decides to hop in their car and visit your store, when someone decided to sign up to receive your emails, they do so with certain expectations. More often than not, those expectations will come from the initial experience that reader had with your business­­—so you know they’ll be high.

That’s why it’s such a surprise that so many businesses pay so little attention to their welcome email.

What most businesses do wrong

Welcome emails are the automated responses consumers receive when they sign up for a business’ email newsletter.

Because welcome emails are automated and most email services provide stock content for businesses to put into them—many business owners don’t even know what the first experience they’re providing their readers looks like.

That’s a huge problem—especially considering open rates for welcome emails are much higher than typical email correspondence. (The average open rate for a welcome email is between 50-60%.)

That’s a lot of people being served a less than optimal first impression. Even worse, that’s a lot of people setting low expectations for the emails they’re going to receive from your organization in the future.

There are certain things all welcome emails can and must do. Here are four of them:

1. Reaffirm they made the right decision

The fact is, even customers who love your business can be reluctant to offer up their email address—especially if they are new to your business and haven’t built a strong relationship with you.

For the customers who do make the decision to subscribe, they’re going to want to know right from the start they made the right decision.

Here are three ways to do just that:

  • Remember your subject line best practices: Just because welcome emails are automated, doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay attention to your best practices. A welcome email subject line should catch the reader’s attention, thank them for signing up, and give them a reason to open your email. Try something like “Thanks for signing up. Now what?”
  • Let them know they’re part of a community: Don’t be afraid to showcase your success as an email marketer. Letting readers know just how many people are receiving your newsletter each month is a great way to reaffirm their decision to subscribe to your list.
  • Make them feel safe: People are protective of their information online—and for good reason. Letting your customers know right from the start that you plan to protect their email address is a great way to make them feel safe and secure.

2. Tell them what to expect in the future

Once you’ve reaffirmed the reader’s decision to subscribe to your mailing list, you’re going to want to offer some preview of what they can expect next.

It’s important that what you tell your reader in the welcome email is consistent with what you promised at the point of sign-up. You don’t want to offer coupons and deals to get people to sign up and then tell new readers that all they’re going to be getting is news updates.

Take the time to revisit what you’re offering your readers at the point of sign-up. Remember to include details about the type of content you plan to send, how frequently you plan to send it, and the expertise you plan to share.

3. Make sure future emails get through

Even the most experienced email marketers can sometimes fall victim to SPAM filters.

If you’re a Constant Contact customer, you can use the Spam Checker to improve the likelihood of your emails making it through.

But you should also use your welcome emails as a way to avoid getting flagged as spam, and to improve your chances of getting noticed in your readers’ inbox.

A great way to do that is by asking them to “whitelist” or add your business to their trusted contacts. That way, your emails will not only end up in the inbox (and out of the spam folder) but will also be more likely to be recognized by the reader.

4. Encourage readers to join your network

If you’ve done everything right up to this point, your readers will be more excited than ever about receiving updates from your business via email marketing.

This is the perfect time to grow those relationships beyond the inbox—across all your social networks.

This is a win-win for you and your customers. You have the opportunity to turn each new subscriber into a fan or follower, and your customers are given more options for how they want to connect with your brand online.

You can (and should) even take that a step further, and provide a trusted email address and phone number they can use to contact you with any questions or concerns.

Remember this is your welcome email

Personalizing your welcome email won’t only improve the first impression you’re able to make on your readers, it will also help set you apart from your competition.

While most businesses are sending welcome emails with static and un-engaging messaging, you’ll be providing an experience that will shape the way customers and potential customers think of your brand.

Take the steps provided for you in this post and remember this is your welcome email. It’s your opportunity to introduce your email marketing and reintroduce your business to your target audience. Make sure it’s written in your words and that it reflects the personal experience you plan to provide your readers.

Make it memorable.

How to edit your welcome email in Constant Contact:

To edit your welcome email in Constant Contact, click the “Autoresponder” tab at the top of the Email Marketing homepage, and click the “welcome email” link toward the middle of the page.

This advice is courtesy of Spark & Hustle National Sponsor Constant Contact. Constant Contact’s leading email marketing, social media marketing, event marketing, local deals, digital storefronts, and online surveys — supported by free KnowHow , personalized coaching, and award-winning product support — help all types of small businesses and organizations find new customers, drive repeat business, and generate referrals. Today, more than half a million customers worldwide trust Constant Contact to help them drive success.